(first posted 3/13/2013) Ah, a Studebaker pickup, a true piece of Americana. Does anything say apple pie, Coca-Cola and South Bend, Indiana, quite as much?
In this case, however, this ’59 Studebaker 3/4-ton pickup, says Blue Bunny ice cream, Anton’s soda and Hannibal, Missouri. Americana? Yes–and in droves, as this pickup was found directly across the street from a poster child for Americana, the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. It all seems so appropriate, does it not?
There are times when identifying a car or pickup found in the wild isn’t very straightforward. Not so this time. The owner, who is strongly suspected of being the owner of “Becky Thatcher’s Ice Cream Store and Emporium”, was kind enough to do the footwork. Odds are he got tired of tourists constantly asking about the truck, and has announced it for the whole world to see. Sometimes the smallest things mean the most.
It seems that while Studebakers are a staple of the old car community, the frequency of sighting one is generally limited to automobiles. Honestly, now, when was the last time you saw a Studebaker pickup? While a two-ton version was covered here (coincidentally, it was found in the same town), it was lacking a drivetrain and sat in a salvage yard. Simply put, Studebaker pickups aren’t commonly found.
Studebaker did have a checkered experience with its pickups. With production in the 60,000-unit range during the early 1950s, production sank like a brick in a pond by the end of the decade. While production numbers for Studebaker’s 4E series are not definitive, examples like this one are seen about as frequently as chicken’s teeth, regardless of the source on which one relies.
According to one source, 9,385 Studebaker trucks were produced in 1959, while another source states that 8,890 were manufactured, of which 7,255 were sold in the United States. This is comparable to Mercury Marauder production in 1963; compared with current production levels of, say, Ford’s F-150, this Studebaker is so rare that if it were a steak it might still be mooing.
Despite the hyper-modest production numbers, Studebaker was still striving to give customers everything they wanted. Half-tons, 3/4-tons, one-tons and heavier, with nearly all of them available on multiple wheelbases. Despite their meager truck sales for 1959, Studebaker was still trying to remain competitive in every truck market segment. They even ventured into the then-novel 4WD arena, producing a mere 86 units for model year 1959. The bulk of these 4×4’s were earmarked for export.
While the model year of this CC was rapidly identified, the actual series is still uncertain and cannot be determined without opening the hood. In their 3/4-ton pickups, Studebaker offered the 4E11, which was propelled by a six-cylinder engine; the 4E12, which was also a 3/4-ton, but powered by a 289 cu in V8 in either 210 hp (with a two-barrel carburetor) or 225 hp (four-barrel) guises, or an optional 259 cu in V8. As your author has little love for six cylinder engines, this fine Studebaker is thus proclaimed an 4E12.
By 1959, Studebaker could have been accused of taking things easy in their truck department, but that would have been inaccurate. Granted, the cab of this pickup was a mildly restyled piece dating back to the 1949 introduction of Studebaker’s 2R series of pickups. Nevertheless, don’t conclude that the good folks in South Bend were complacent. With the offering of the quite basic Scotsman pickup series, Studebaker’s efforts to offer a pickup to meet every need became a very earnest venture. The Scotsman–if the name sounds familiar, it’s because Studebaker also applied it to one of the most basic automobiles of all time–is quite different than the Deluxe pickup seen here.
In 1959, the term “financially broken” would have been the most apt description of Studebaker’s pickup line. At the time, Ford and Chevrolet were beginning to venture upmarket with available options for their pickups, while Studebaker was viewed as woefully antiquated. A prime example of this is the optional radio: Available directly from the factory, there was simply no place in the rustic cab to mount it; when bolted beneath the dash, it resulted in an aftermarket appearance. Often, a lack of funds can translate into bad fortune in the automobile industry.
As an epilogue, Studebaker introduced the Champ 1/2-ton pickup for 1960 (CC here), but sales never really rebounded. While we all know about Studebaker’s inglorious end in 1966, this particular 4E12 could also be viewed as an end of the line, since only 1/2-tons would receive the Champ name and styling and the 3/4-ton and heavier trucks were never updated. For a truly beautiful pickup, dripping with Americana, it was the coldest and loneliest of deaths.
I grew up in South Bend in the 70s and 80s, at a time when Studies still fairly commonly roamed the streets, and I never saw one of these.
I’d compare it to the International pickup, prior to the A Series…and in general.
Both tried to be all things to all buyers, with myriad series and wheelbases; and both ended up being nothing to nobody.
IH held on a while longer in that it’s farm-equipment line and heavy trucks provided reliable – for a time – cash flow. Studebaker, in the end dependent only on Gravely, Onan and Alco locomotives, didn’t have the deep pockets. Or the will.
Now that’s a beautiful truck!
Next to black, I hate blue – blue ANYTHING – should be red, but that’s me.
You, sir, have very specific tastes! Now about those rear windows not opening…
Growing up in rural northeast IN in the 50s-60s, you saw a fair number of Studebaker (and IH) trucks. One grandfather owned at least one of each. Did not realize Stude production numbers were so low.
Coming from the guy who desires a BROWN Ford Five Hundred. 😉
Americana? Ah you should have seen StudeBob’s Transtar… complete with US Flag motif paint job. While I’m looking for a picture, here’s a page of Studebaker Americana — from a German site!
OK, “Pete” seems to have another paint job now, but from 2002: http://www.studebakerdriversclub.com/images/StudeBobsTranstar.jpg
Very common when I was a kid growing up in Kansas. Last time I saw one it was a complete early fifties model that was offered to me for under a thousand. Too busy getting divorced to take advantage of it.
I owned a 40 international. Zackman it was red. Off brands like IHC and Stude appeal to me. Just not enough to go restore one.
E tu thats a lovely truck Id quite happily drive that on my dump or firewood runs much more hauling capacity than my Minx and Ive just remembered a similar Stude from my childhood a friends parents had a Studebaker ute though I dont know the model last seen at eight, too long ago, the same family ran a 61 Imperial both imported new RHD that family had lots of coin.
There is something strange and attractive about late 1950s pickups from the smaller players. It is an odd combination of “late ’50s space age marries the 1930s.” The Dodge pickup that we saw from the WPC Museum tour yesterday was maybe the ultimate oddball design of this school.
These Stude pickups have always appealed to me, thought a 3/4 ton version might be a bit more butch than I would care to live with. There is something soothing about the soft curves of the styling on these. If the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters were to drive a truck, it would surely be one of these.
Engines in these were sort of an illustrated history of Studebaker. In addition to the V8s and the little Champion 170 six (still a flathead through 1960) was the ancient big six that had been in Commanders and Land Cruisers before the V8 came out in 1951. That old flathead went back to the 1930s and was always highly regarded for its longevity.
I used to see a couple of the earlier Studebaker trucks quite regularly as some one that lived in my area used one as a daily driver/work truck and there were a few other random ones that I’d see around. Never seen one with this front end on the road though. The also show up from time to time on Craigslist.
Those wheel covers remind me of ones used on the Ford Crown Victoria back in the early 1990s. And I don’t think I have ever seen this particular model of truck before either – I definitely would have remembered that hood opening in the front – I loved the similar feature on the 195x GMC pickup as well.
I believe they are CV wheel covers, or an aftermarket knockoff. The original hub caps were much simpler.
Nice find Jason!
Never in a million years would I have guessed this. It’s a beautiful truck, even though trucks aren’t really my thing.
I was born in 1970 and have lived my entire life in a cold-climate state (Massachusetts), and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a Studebaker pickup from this generation, certainly not when I was old enough to understand what it was. In fact, I think my knowledge that Studebaker ever made pickups came entirely from reading about them in reference books (auto encyclopedias and the like), not from seeing them in the metal. I think I may have encountered a very small number of Champs — as in one or two — over the years.
By contrast, IHC pickups were still being made when I was a small child, and I remember seeing them around and being aware of what they were when I was younger. I still see a 1950s-70s International pickup every once in a while.
Harvester took a longer road…but wound up at mostly the same place. In other products.
Studebaker merged and then was absorbed and pieces sold off. IH was split, half was absorbed by what’s now a foreign company (AGCO) and the other fighting for corporate independence (Daimler has had its eye on them for years). But it’s out of consumer vehicles.
In the end, the IH line was almost as out of date as was Studebaker’s truck at its demise.
The Mennonite farmer I used to stay with had a Studebaker pickup of this type, but it was an older one, and pretty beat up. It was a half-ton, but had been used as a tow truck, which explains why it was so tired. The engine was developing a rather nasty knock, and Mr. Yoder babied it along.
One morning, Mrs. Y needed to take it somewhere. She got in, started it with a heavy foot on the gas, and it let go. A momentous cloud of smoke erupted that completely obscured the big red barn it was sitting in front of. That was the end of the Stude. It’s visible in the background of this shot.
Wells Blue Bunny – Le Mars, Iowa – The Ice Cream Capital of the World!
The color sceme, the extra license plate, the lame-o stickers, the fuggly hubcaps…ewie!
Such a handsome truck suffering from the lack of taste of some dopey old man…obvi.
A little tid-bit – the large grill/header panel piece is made from fiberglass.
Just so you know.
Now you know.
Our next door neighbor had one of these. When he started it , the 6 cyl engine sounded just like one in an old Chevy truck. He gave it to his son who damaged the front fender. I remember them trying to hammer the dent out. I’m trying to remember the movie where the kids used a Studebaker tow truck to pull a building down. Porky’s !
Got a short ride in an even larger circa 1960 from Arthur’s (my neighbor with the ’49 Desoto) son, who did fuel oil deliveries for a small company a couple of blocks from where I lived. Arthur Jr. would bring his truck home for lunch sometimes. The rig was set up as a fuel oil delivery tanker. Recall the V-8 emblem and a parking brake on the floor. I think the tank must have been fairly full when I got the lift since the ride was pretty bumpy even on our smooth street. Mine was a 1952 2R5 that I got, (seized up) for nothing from the owner of the service station where I worked. Seems that even on the better equipped of these, only a passenger side exterior door lock was supplied. A dealer could install one on the driver’s side. That dash curved around underneath all the way to the firewall, installing a radio must have looked awkward. Mine didn’t have one.
“the large grill/header panel piece is made from fiberglass.”
Appears the pattern might have been HACKED out by a “pattern maker” that shall we say, lacked a bit of sensitivity to form. The original cab/doors/hood weren’t bad for the time, but all the rest of the parts-including the bed-appear to be from a cut rate J.C. Whitney type catalog.
Studebaker had some fine looking vehicle designs over the years, but to my jaded ID eyes…….this hodge podge truck ASSembly was NOT one of them 🙁 DFO
They were quite attractive when they first came out in the 1949 model year. Double wall pickup bed that was also relatively wide as compared to competing makes. Economical Champion engine or more powerful one from the Commander. Low price. Consider other makes in 1949. The best appearing at that time?
Not a Stude fan, not a pickup fan, but this is a good looking truck. Old, styling wise, when it was new, but still, it’s a good looking truck.
Interesting how the perspectives play. I know there were a few 9′ bed trucks around that era and looking at the pic I thought this might be one of them. Apparently not. Oh well, not the first time in my life I’ve been let down.
Yes, the 9′ beds can be tricky to spot in an era when both the 8′ and 9′ would place the rear axle near the center of the bed, just like the 6.5’s do.
A reliable giveaway for 9′ beds, though, is that they were only on one-tons, so they tended to sit very high compared to the 1/2 and 3/4s. And people say modern trucks are tall…
My Uncle Milford, of Mexico Mo. had one In two tone green. A “Farmer’ green under what i would say now is Sage green. I remember it well enough. It Was gifted to his eldest son Bailey, when U. Milford met an untimely end. It involved a train. Not a good family memory. I last saw it in the late 60s. Sitting as so many did, to the side of the Garage/Barn On Bailey’s property outside Farber. (another bucolic town in Audrain County, Mo.) I now wonder if it has survived.